July 15th-19th: Desert Dunes, Rainbow Mountains, Qilian Mountains

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July 22nd 2018
Published: July 22nd 2018
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July 15th - Mountain Maia - Dia 25
We thought it was going to rain through the night but it did not start until 6am. Having thought of doing a hike in the morning through the deserted hills we decided to abandon the plan due to the rain. We packed our bags through the slight drizzle and headed back towards the street. Today we were extremely lucky with hitchhiking, we got in a ride that was going to take us all the way to Zhangye, a city 300km north west. Close to one of the destinations we have in mind, Rainbow Mountains. After less then 30km on the car we started looking at a beautiful mountain range stretching infinitely. Leo and I started talking about how cool it would it be if we could just hike towards the mountain range of Qilian. Bean was a bit more hesitant and wanted to take advantage of the ride. By a democratic vote we asked the kind driver to drop us . Extremely exited we got off the car and looked for a convenience store to buy some ramen and cookies for dinner and breakfast. We headed off through the agricultural fields with rolling green hills in the background. All of us constantly taking pictures and Leonardo running from farmer to farmer talking portrait photos. πŸ˜‚ Too many distractions, not much progress.
After a while of walking we were offered a ride on a small electric car. Squishing in the dark space of a storage compartment that the car was pulling, we managed to travel around 1km. Not a lot but enough to save time and spend it venturing more deep into the valley.
Finally getting off the bumpy ride we were welcomed again by daylight. And what a view!!!! Majestic, the towering mountain laying deep in the valley being the start point of a clear snaking river running through the valley floor. No tree in sight but the greenest most fertile valley floor, being enjoyed by horses, cows, sheep and the rare yaks.
We spend some time with the local farmers who where sitting on a hill watching their animals, from far above.
Later we walked down to the valley floor to join the horses grazing over the grass. So many cute baby horses 😊. We kept heading toward the mountains, which kept growing taller. Following the clear river from a melting glacier to far away to be seen. I love valleys.
Getting a bit late in the day we found a flat grassy section to set up the tent. Looking overhead and watching the clouds depart, a good sign for a clear night sky, and good sunny weather for tomorrow. We where going to try and hike up to the crest tomorrow morning to see what was behind the other side of the mountain.

July 16th -Attempt to hike Mountain Maia - Dia 26
I woke up at around 1am to go to the bathroom. As I got off the tent and looked overhead.. the entire sky was clear. The milk-way stretched above Maia Mountain, visible to the naked eye. I woke Leonardo and Bean up and when they saw it themselves, they immediately got there cameras out.
Going back to sleep was hard and my feet stayed cold for the rest of night. Defiently the coldest night of the trip, many more to come as we keep on gaining altitude.
Waking up to blue skies and not a single cloud. Happy for the amazing weather since they had told us it had been raining continuously for 2 weeks in the mountains. We got lucky.
We left everything inside the tent and took one backpack with water up Mountain Maia. The first section was easy since a lot of goats roamed around and they had made a trail for us. But as we got farther up we saw each other tramping through the tall bushes, getting scratched. Worth the effort as we got closer and closer to the ridge. 2 hours had passed since we had left and we still had a long way to go, not knowing what to expect for the scramble that lay ahead. Suddenly Leonardo points towards the crest of Mountain Maia and comments on the new gray clouds forming above it. Seeing the weather deteriorating and the wind picking up we decided to head back down. Feeling thankful that we did as continuous thunder was starting to be heard behind us while descending.
Getting back to the tent also took us around 2 hours, being accompanied by a few rain drops, lots of wind, and lots of thunder. We packed everything up and started heading quickly down the valley. To our surprise, as we looked back, seeing the skies turning blue again. But also noticing that we would have never been able to make it to the crest of Mountain Maia! We had barely made it half way up and we still had the most challenging part ahead involving a really steep looking rock face😡
After a really long walk to the highway we started hitchhiking again to eventually find ourselves in the city of Wuwei, closer to the desert dunes which where out next destination point. Feeling a bit tired and lazy to camp in the city we decided to look for a cheap hostal. Finding one close by for only 4 canadian dollars/person/night. Worth it 😊

July 17th - Alxa Youqui Desert Dunes - Dia 27
In the middle of the night we where woken up by the sound of a woman screaming for her life as she ran down the hallway. Jumping out of bed and leaving the room with boxers on, we found a woman completely naked next to the reception desk being grabbed forcefully by the hair by an incredibly fat man carrying a child in his arms. The Chinese woman had huge red marks going all the way down her back and was holding in her hand a belt. Another woman in the reception desk, looking nervous, was dialing a number. Another Chinese man appeared in the scene which was now talking forcefully with the man holding the woman. Bean eventually asked what was going on and later translated the situation to us. As imagined the wife was caught cheating on her husband and the husband beat her until she managed to escape. Wanting to intervene and help the poor woman out, which was clearly suffering through the strong grip of her husband. But we where helpless, how do you help if you don't even know the language to communicate with? Bean was trying to help out but eventually we all got asked to return to our room, since the police was going to arrive shortly. We obediently returned to our rooms and tried to go back to sleep. Taking a while to do so since I kept on thinking how the scene ended up unfolding.
Getting out of the city of Wuwei took us a long time but eventually it happened. The heat was also starting to become a bit unbearable as we got closer to the desert dunes. We got lucky and managed to get a ride taking us all the way to the city of Jinchang. The highway had become desolate and unexciting. Just a single straight line crossing through dry, unused land. Hopefully it was all worth it. When we arrived to the city of Jinchang we decided to take a direct bus to the city of Alxa Youqi (the city with the entrance to the desert dunes). Happy that we did so since there where absolutely no cars in the highway to Alxa.
As we arrived at Alxa our first objective was getting some food in our bellies. Not knowing exactly where the find food we approached two young girls which had also hopped out of the same bus. Luckily one of them had a mother living in the village with a restaurant. πŸ˜€ They led, we followed. Heat was getting much more manageable as the evening rolled through. In the restaurant we tried a new dish which were dumplins stuffed with lamb meat in a lamb noodle soup with little pieces for lamb meat in it πŸ˜ŒπŸ‘ soo good. Lots of lamb around this area jajaja.
Done with dinner we walked around the city with the two girls we had met. They took us to a place were we finally bought sunscreen! It seems Chinese dont like to use sunscreen since it's really hard to find.
Leaving the city behind we walked towards some desert dunes, 5kms north of the city. We really wanted to sleep in the desert dunes 😬 The original plan was to head even farther north from Alxa, with a bus, towards a humongous desert with little fresh water lakes everwhere. But as we got to Alxa we realized that in order to do that we needed to rent a jeep, which was a bit too much for our budget. 😟 Not letting this come in between our excitement we found other small dunes.
As the night rolled in we where walking on top of a sand dune looking for the right spot to lay down and sleep. This was my first time walking, pooping, rolling down and sleeping in a desert dune. Much more to come when I head over to Egypt.

July 18th-Danxia (The Rainbow Mountain) - Dia 28
Luckily everything was cloudy when we woke up, helping hide the sun away. The wind was slowly picking up. Leonardo and I took the opportunity, before the rain came, to walk and explore the dunes. We walked a bit and managed to find our first pack of camel's, which were to shy to get close to us or us to them.
The wind had become extremely strong and was carrying a lot of sand by the time we got back to Bean. As the wind&sand hit our legs and arms it felt as if it was raining. We goofed around trying to be blown away by the wind, we are a bit to heavy jejeje.
We left Alxa and started heading towards our next destination, Danxia or also referred to as the rainbow mountains. Hitchhiking our way without any trouble we arrived quickly. Being welcomed to a completely different landscape, slopped mountains made of shale and mudstone. From the small village we could start to see the different colors in the mountains. It was an incredibly beautiful sunny day, reminding us a lot of Vancouver summer weather. It had been raining for the past few days so today, being the first sunny day, was the best time to see the colors which gave the mountains their famous name "Rainbow Mountains of Danxia". Finally feeling a bit more relaxed with time, we had plans on entering the geopark the following day. We sat down and enjoyed the rest of the sunny evenings, eating delicious noodles and drinking A LOT of the famous date tea. As the sun started falling through the horizon we took the opportunity to get a bit closer to the mountains and sit on top of a hill. Overseeing mountains which looked as if they had been brushed with paint small taste to what was going to come tomorrow

July 19th - Crossing through the Mountain Range of Qilian - Dia 29
Walking up at 6:30am with an alarm (first time we use an alarm to wake us up πŸ˜„) we quickly packed everything and headed towards the entrance of the park. We wanted to escape the crowds and the locals sayed that the colors were more visible through the morning or late afternoon.
The whole tour took us around 3 hours were a bus took you to 4 different view points and you walked around each one of them. You were not free to walk anywhere since all the mountains were made out of mudstone and shale, so you could easily destroy the preserved environment . Regardless it was espectacular, met my expectations. Every single mountain had its own color patterns and they stretched until the eye could see no more. (See photos 😊) It sometimes looked as if they had painted the mountains on purpose, but as you got close you realized that every single soil particle was that color.
After the colorful mountain visit we looked for a quick breakfast before heading out, finding one close by. Taking advantage that there was a water hose outside of the restaurant we took our shirts off and sprayed water on each other. So refreshing and doing it reminded me of a few childhood memories 😌. One of the things I have loved about traveling through China is the ability to act and have fun, like a child, without feeling judged. Chinese people are quite open, they might stare at you and laugh but they will never criticize.
Done with breakfast and the nice bath we headed out of the city towards our new destination. A town named after the mountain range of Qilian. We had to hitchhike through a road less traveled that crosses the range. It was going to be an adventure.
After a couple of hitchhikes we arrived at the last village before heading into the road that lead through the mountain range. We noticed at this point that the road appeared to be closed in Google maps. Asking around we found out that the road was under construction but could still be travelled through. The road itself was already a less popular travel choice and now under construction...well you can imagine. Feeling lucky, excited and ready for an adventure we went for it.
We started walking and going through the different sections that where being constructed. Realizing that the construction project was incredibly big, the idea was to pave the whole road which had a length of around 80kms and an elevation gain of around 1000meters. Going through steep cliffs and a following an aggressive river.
After an hour of walking uphill, with no success, we finally hit jackpot with a truck driver carrying some aggregate for the concrete plant installed much farther in. We quickly jumped in the truck and started going uphill again. INCREDIBLY slow though, barely reaching 20km/hr jajajaja. Well at least we had a ride and we did not need to walk with our big packs on. It was a long ride with a lot of elevation gain and the farther we went in...the better the views got.
The truck driver dropped his truck load and all of as sudden we were as light as a bird. Reaching a top speed of around 50km/hr he quickly took us through the last stretch to drop us off in the main construction camp. We still had half of the way to go but it was getting late and it had started to drizzle. Luckily the truck driver knew the people around the camp, which welcomed us in as honored guests. They served us a hot noodle soup as the rain outside intensified, Feeling joyful for the abundance of extremely welcoming people in China. They even managed to get us a whole room to stay through the night. I couldn't stop smiling and telling them thankyou. It would have been an extremely rough night with no food if it weren't for all of these kind acts.
We settled into our room and were joined by the company of 5 Chinese workers. A woman (the cook), her husband (a site supervisor), their son (a security officer), their daughter (assistant cook) and finally the site manager. We all sat in the room and drank daisy flower & date tea while eating many dried dates and nuts. How did we get so lucky? The cook always offered us more food which if we rejected you could see a slight sigh of dissatisfaction in her face, so we ate a lot. Recharging the body and the mind 😍
As the father and mother left for bed we watched a movie in Beans computer with both the brother and sister. Ending the night perfectly.


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